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Today is the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street. Time to remind people some of the key aspects of what we are fighting for.

One of the main things is the big banks in America are largely responsible for the economic conditions we now face. And they were allowed to do this thanks to the Republican-led deregulation of banks.

But the money that goes into these banks is our money. So the obvious thing is for us to move our money OUT of the predatory lenders and into options that serve our communities better.

We are all angry at the big banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and Citibank because of their predatory lending practices, terrible customer service and greedy, selfish politics and business practices. Basically these banks and similar ones have screwed working class and middle class Americans and made a profit off our suffering. Then they got bailed out with OUR tax money when their lousy business practices and predatory lending hit them in the ass. These banks got us into the economic mess we are in and the CEOs of these banks took America to the cleaners and have been reaping the profits while we suffer foreclosures and tough times. And the fees they charge are insane!

Well there is something we can do. Move Our Money!

I should note that according to Green America's Responsible shopper, the two worst banks in America are Bank of America and Citigroup. Bank of America and Citigroup, are also are two of the top ten tax dodging companies in America. They love to take our tax money, but hate to pay their fair share. If you have any accounts or credit cards with these two banks, I highly suggest switching. These two banks, along with Chase, also get by far the most customer service complaints to the Comptroller of the Currency. Here is the list from 2009 of complaints received:

Bank of America: 7,230 complaints (25.5% of total)
    J.P. Morgan Chase: 4,890 complaints (17.3%)
    Citigroup: 3,742 complaints (13.2%)
    Wells Fargo: 2,695 complaints (9.5%)
    HSBC North America: 1,963 complaints (6.9%)
    Wachovia: 1,265 complaints (4.5%)
    U.S. Bancorp: 1,027 complaints (3.6%)
    National City: 586 complaints (2.1%)
    The Royal Bank of Scotland Group: 537 complaints (1.9 %)
    Key Corp: 343 complaints (1.2 %)
I would say, even taking size into account, Bank of America ranks the worst by pretty much ANY standard. And there are better options.

That is why I advocate breaking ties with these big predatory banks and finding alternatives. I personally have been divesting myself of these big bad banks like Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and Citibank and instead switching my mortgage, accounts and credit cards to USAA (which only works with Veterans and their families), TD Bank (a large, Canadian bank that actually has excellent customer service and did not engage in predatory lending), and local credit unions. I have particularly liked TD Bank who refinanced my mortgage at a much better rate and much simpler than the big bad banks. They also have much longer banking hours than other banks, including weekends.

If you can't do USAA or TD Bank or a local credit union, Green America (which I have been associated with since they were Co-op America) has some resources:

    * The basics about socially responsible investing

   * How to retire with one million dollars in a just and sustainable world

   * How your savings and checking accounts can build healthy communities through community investing

Green America has some suggestions for better credit cards I would like to pass on to you.

Cards Connected to Better Banks

There are socially responsible banks and credit unions that exemplify responsible lending practices—as well as community investing institutions that take the social mission one step further by also investing in low-income populations.

Permaculture Credit Union’s (PCU) Visa card (13% apr, no annual fee): Based in New Mexico, PCU is committed to Earth-friendly and socially responsible loans and investments. PCU’s card is issued by the Illinois Credit Union League to anyone, whether or not they are a PCU account holder, though applicants should mention they are “affiliated” with Permaculture Credit Union.

ReDirect Visa (15.15% apr, no annual fee): The ReDirect card is issued by Washington state’s ShoreBank Pacific.Depositors fuel the bank’s lending programs, which enable sustainable community development. ShoreBank Pacific issues the card by way of TCM, which is owned by ICBA Bancard, a subsidiary of the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Your card fees support ShoreBank Pacific’s community investing mission, and half of the card’s proceeds go toward reducing CO2 emissions through Sustainable Travel International’s “MyClimate” high-quality offsets. In addition to a conventional rewards program, the card also earns cardholders discounts at the sustainable businesses listed in regional “ReDirect Guides” for Denver/Boulder/Fort Collins, CO; Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA; and Salt Lake City/Park City, UT. Those businesses that offer Internet purchasing will extend ReDirect discounts to any cardholder. There’s no need to have a ShoreBank Pacific account to apply.

Salmon Nation Visa (15.15% apr, no annual fee): This card, also from ShoreBank Pacific, directs a percentage of its income to growing a community of citizens that practice environmental stewardship of “Salmon Nation,” a bio-region stretching from Alaska to Oregon where wild salmon live. Like the ReDirect card, Salmon Nation Visa isn’t benefiting a mega-bank, and you don’t need a ShoreBank Pacific account to apply.

The Loop Card (11.99% apr, no annual fee): A Visa from Albina Community Bank in Oregon. Profits from this Visa from Oregon’s Albina Community Bank not only support Albina, but one percent of every purchase goes to Portland’s neighborhoods, funding education, health, social services, environment, the arts, or economic development projects. You do not have to have an account with Albina to get the card, and it is not connected to a mega-bank.

Shorebank’s Elan Visa Consumer Card (variable apr, no annual fee): ShoreBank, in the Midwest, is a community development and environmental bank that issues a credit card available to anyone nationwide through Elan, the same company servicing Wainright Bank’s cards, at a rate determined by your credit history.

Self-Help credit union cards (9.95–12.95% apr, no annual fee): Self-Help, headquartered in North Carolina, works in communities traditionally underserved by conventional financial institutions. It offers Classic and Platinum Visa credit cards to members, and through online banking, anyone nationwide can become an account holder and apply. The cards are issued by Self-Help, a community development bank.

For those purchases you make by credit card, using one of these best-option cards can make your charges a force for good.

Return to Mole's Consumer Advice Page.

Return to I Had a Thought

Originally posted to mole333 on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 06:20 AM PDT.

Also republished by Occupy Wall Street.

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